Danielle Bari Flaum of Millburn, founder and chair of the No Nukes for Iran teen advocacy program, and two other group members, Michelle Bauer and Marisa Blackburn, went to Washington March 5 to bring their message to Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, and other leaders. The trip was a follow-up to Oren’s visit to the MetroWest Super Sunday fund-raiser Dec. 6, when he saw the teens’ No Nukes for Iran magnets and asked that they make banners and distribute them to area synagogues. They fulfilled his request and travelled to Washington to present a banner to him.
The first stop on our trip to Washington was the Israeli embassy, where we had a private meeting with Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren. After going through intense security checks, we were welcomed by his wife, Sally Oren.
Meeting with Ambassador Oren in his study, we discussed our successes and struggles. He thanked us for our passionate efforts and congratulated us for creating excitement in bringing together many Jewish and non-Jewish groups. He stressed that a nuclear Iran poses a monumental security threat. He shared memories of growing up after the Holocaust and recalled the promises that his generation made to never again let a Holocaust happen. The thought of Iran gaining nuclear weapons, he said, causes him to have sleepless nights.
We presented the ambassador with a “No Nukes for Iran” banner and lapel pin — which, he told us, he loved.
We had the privilege to meet with Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of the Union for Reform Judaism, and representatives of Israeli consulates from around the country who were gathered for a policy conference at the embassy. After we presented our project and distributed our magnets and buttons, Ambassador Oren asked those in attendance to take this project back to their communities.
We were deeply grateful to Ambassador Oren and Benjamin Sack, the embassy’s director of national initiatives and state government relations, for an amazing morning.
We headed to the Rayburn House building on Capitol Hill to meet with Robert Marcus, staff member for the House of Representatives’ Committee on Foreign Affairs — who gave us a crash course in government and politics. The Iran Petroleum Sanctions Act was passed by both the House and the Senate, he told us; now the two bills must be reconciled. Mr. Marcus said the reconciliation committee has not convened (despite overwhelming support for the bills in the House and Senate) because the United States is waiting for the United Nations to vote on sanctions against Iran.
We also met with Jonathan Moore, legislative assistant to Rep. Steven R. Rothman (D-NJ Dist. 9) and told him about our mission.
Next stop was AIPAC — the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, where we met with leadership development director Jonathan Kessler and national field organizer Suzie Goldenkranz. We learned firsthand from some of the experts about strategies on foreign policy lobbying. It was an inspiring and challenging meeting.
In our meeting with Rachel Hillman, program associate at the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization, we discussed how to tap into BBYO’s energy and encourage its members to join on the mission of “no nuclear weapons for Iran.”
Finally, we joined the RAC’s “L’taken” seminar, a gathering of 400 teens, for a lively Shabbat service. I had the honor to deliver our message to the gathering. I loved looking out at my peers and challenging them to stand up, speak out, and declare that this generation of youth wants to live in a world free of terrorists threatening Israel and our safety.
I challenge all youth in the community to stand up for peace and human rights. Go to www.nonukesforiran.org, and ask your synagogue, school, and youth group to join the effort.